Monday, April 26, 2021

Biden seeks repeal of longstanding tax-code provision that reduces estate-tax burden for family-owned assets

President Biden's plan to finance infrastructure and increase spending on social programs includes repeal of a longstanding tax-code provision that allows heirs to avoid capital-gains taxes, and "Farm groups say elimination of the tax break would impose a burden on agriculture," Chuck Abbott reports for Successful Farming.

The issue is stepped-up basis. The term “means that when property passes to an heir, it is assessed at its current value, and taxed at that rate when it is sold, rather than the increase in value from when it was originally acquired by the family,” Abbott explains. Because of large exemptions, “Few farm families pay estate taxes but the 'death tax' is a perennial target of farm groups,” he notes. “There is an $11 million exemption per person from the estate tax, due to a provision in the 2017 tax cut law. The exemption will revert to $5 million in 2026.”

Biden's proposal is part of a tax plan that includes an increase in the capital-gains tax. Hans Nichols of Axios reports, “The White House thinks that change could lead more individuals to liquidate assets before they die, allowing the IRS to tax them then instead of encouraging families to keep passing on them for more favorable tax treatment.”

UPDATE, April 28: Stephanie Leiser of the University of Michigan explains capital-gains taxes, in a piece for The Conversation, a site for journalistic writing by academics: "The basis is the original price you paid for the asset. Let’s say you invested $100,000 in some stock and held on to it until you died, at which point it is worth $300,000. If your heirs eventually sell the stock for $700,000, their basis wouldn’t be $100,000 but $300,000, meaning they would pay taxes on only $400,000 in capital gains. But no one will ever pay tax on the $200,000 in appreciation that accrued before you died. Biden’s plan would eliminate this basis step-up and require heirs with incomes over $1 million to pay taxes on the entire amount of their capital gains."

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